Stand the Test
By Steve Trubilla
One of the political debates of the day is should a person have to show identification when they vote? The question should be why would anyone object to it? Over history people have fought and died to win and protect this right. In countries too many to name people do not have this right. I have known of a woman that had her finger cut off for voting. This is not a story I read in a book and it did not happen a hundred years ago. Is it too much to ask to show an ID card when so many have given so much more?
One may assert that requiring identification places a barrier that serves to disenfranchise and or discourage people from voting. I understand the premise, but only because I have been conditioned to bend in my thinking to the point of unacceptability. It is the perception of a barrier and not a real barrier at all. Perception is not reality, reality is reality. The argument becomes more one of convenience. Given the consequence of even one person losing confidence in the process logistic dictates, more than this it demands convenience be defeated by duty and civic responsibility. Every citizen must be a gate keeper and do that which is necessary to ensure the integrity of the ballot box.
On 31 August 1920 when Mrs. Marie Ruoff Byrum cast her ballot in Hannibal, Missouri She became the first woman to vote in the state of Missouri and the first woman to vote in the United States under the 19th, or Suffrage, Amendment. There was a driving rain that day and great resentment if not hate; women finally had the vote. She was not inconvenienced. Praise the Lord she did not care it was raining. She stood, was identified and voted.
History records Thomas Mundy Peterson was the first African American to cast a vote in this country. He did so on March 31, 1870. Peterson voted in a local election held in Perth Amboy, NJ. He cast his ballot shortly after the passing of the 15th Amendment. He did so at great risk, and yet embraced the responsibility. He stood, was identified and voted.
Both of these people could very easily have found an excuse not to be identified. I am sure most would have understood if they had. History is replete with the names of others that avoided the perils of doing so.
Imagine the high drama at the very moment Marie walked the long walk to the door of the building. Was there a Leon Czolgosz, (pronounced Choal-gosh, and the assassin that murdered President McKinley) in the crowd, just waiting for his moment? Imagine the euphoria in the hearts of every African American man when Thomas, by casting his ballot forever changed their lives.
Elections are about power and money. There will always be those that look for unfair advantage. Those that will lie, cheat, and even kill to influence the outcome of an election. The election process is very simple, one person, one vote. For it to work the individual citizen has to stand up and be counted. One can always find a reason for not doing something. Simple verification of identity to vote will not stop someone that wants to.
Imagine the reality of life in this country now had Thomas M. Peterson or Marie R. Byrum found inconvenience justification for not doing so. Equally important, if not even more so, imagine the consequence to your life today if the elected officials of the time would not have found the moral courage to stand with these people.
I have been watching this debate and like most things today the partisan, racial, and other lines are being drawn. The exercise has little or nothing to do with the substance of the argument. It is all about how it will affect this or that one’s personal agenda and bottom line. Their accountants are already calculating the profit margins. You may want to calculate your losses.
If you are an elected official knowing the reality of the world we live in, how can you possibly support not knowing a person’s the true identity? It is common knowledge there are people trying to manipulate the process. On the local level many races are decided by very few votes. Could it be that this serves your personal interest?
For those that may not know it when you take aluminum cans to a recovery place many times you are asked to provide picture identification, and in some cases even a finger print. Has the vote really been reduced to a value less than a beer can?
The question we all must ask ourselves is am I a Byrum and or a Peterson, or just someone waiting for someone else to stand the test? What will happen if we wait too long?